The Money Weapon
One of the more effective demonstrations that money is useful is an Army program where U.S. soldiers in Iraq tap a fund that bypasses bureaucracy to solve short-term Iraqi needs for clothing and food and win hearts and minds in the process.
Problem is this money, which comes from something called the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), has been used in Iraq for larger scale reconstruction projects, as Dana Hedgpeth and Sarah Cohen report. The program, popular with the Army, is governed in a field manual called "Money as a Weapon System."
Our readers who comment recognize both the practicality and the problems with this largely unregulated (and therefore easy to use) kitty. Some call it bribery; others see it as helping; several complain, asking why the U.S. continues to pour billions into Iraq when its oil fields are working again and it has a budget surplus of $50 billion.
We'll start with markswisshelm, who said that "As far as Iraqi rat holes for American taxpayer's hard earned funds go this one is pretty small potatoes. It appears to be doing some small amount of good probable because Administration cronies don't seem to be able to get their oily mitts on most of it."
gkam seemed to agree, saying, "Yes, it's bribery perhaps, but much better than the bribes we give to the rich crooks, that money stolen by contractors, and the terrible waste of using it for more killing... If we can buy our way out of McCain's 100-year commitment, it'll be cheap."
But sofac wrote that "...CERP funds are one of the militarys best tools in the current conflict. The problem is the current misuse by some, not all, who have that money availabe... When used correctly, the cash can be very beneficial in reducing violence and allowing safe access for US troops in dangerous areas."
Raft said, "I'm tired of hearing how well everything is going in Iraq. There is one simple measure of success or not in Iraq. When the two million refugees start coming home in large numbers then that will be success..."
thuctho complained that "Iraq has $79 billions in the bank of New York collecting interest. They also sitting on top of many large oil fields. My tax should be spent here in America."
Pearl77 said, "This is the real "surge" - paying your enemies not to fight you... We borrow money from China to pay Iraqis not to fight us or themselves. Brilliant, Dubya!"
rloach wrote, "With $79 billion surplus it is time for the Iraqi government to stand up and cease being a bloodsucker on American funds and people. This is like paying all the bill for the richest guy in the group. while America goes into debt to help Iraq, the Iraqi government is building cash reserves. Enough of this nonsense."
kkrimmer said, "...The Surge is "working" partly because of new troops but the bigger reasons are : 1) the US is paying the warlords $$$$$ and 2) al-Sadr has told his militias to stand down. Let's get the whole story."
ScottinNC suggested that "CERP funds may represent an effective counterinsurgency weapon, and it seems fair to compensate Iraqis who have suffered under the occupation. Unfortunately, this approach makes the Iraqi economy more dependent on American cash and isn't an efficient way to create the infrastructure that is prerequisite to economic development..."
nallcando said that "The country of Iraq that the Republicans attacked for oil, is costing us more to bomb then rebuild it, than what we pay for gas and oil, at the pumps here in the US! What an absloutly stupid idea this was....A quagmire of billions of US TAX dollars, down the drain.."
MPatalinjug asked, "...Why should the U.S. military bribe Iraqis?... And just imagine what $2.8 billion of U.S. taxpayer money can do to repair and maintain America's infrastructure of roads and bridges. As soon as possible, this Commander's Emergency Response Fund should be shut down immediately."
blackjack3 said, "Winning the hearts and minds...is now "buying" the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. This policy can backfire when the government of Iraq cannot or will not step in to take the American's place at the cash dispenser table..."
rowens1 worried that "If you give a man $10, you have helped him for a day. If you teach him to solicit and receive, you have helped him become a ward for life."
We'll close with johnbsmrk, who said, "The big secret about why the insurgency has been tamped down. We've put the insurgents on the payroll. I don't have any particular objection to this if it stops our guys and ordinary Iraqis being killed but please don't claim it's solved the problem..."
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